By Landon Agoado AP, DOM (AP1704) – Palm Beach Gardens, Florida – Bell’s Palsy is a condition that troubles the medical community in its workings and causes a lot of distress and shock for the patients. One of the good things you will hear about the condition is the ability to treat it using acupuncture. The technique is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been used to treat a gamut of conditions through centuries. When it comes to the treatment of Bell’s Palsy, acupuncture mainly focuses on resolving damp, expelling wind, increasing blood flow to the face and qi levels in the body. We have had a lot of success treating this condition at our Palm Beach Gardens Acupuncture clinic so we are confident whenever we get a new patient suffering with this condition. In fact, most of our patients report a 50% reduction in symptoms after one or two acupuncture treatments, and full recovery within a short series of treatments. Before we go any deeper into our style of treatment, let us discuss a little about Bell’s Palsy (BP), its origins, incidences, symptoms and conventional treatment.
What is Bell’s Palsy?
The facial nerve is also referred to as the 7th cranial nerve and runs from the brain to the face through the sides. The nerve relays information from the brain to the face so that the person can smile, frown, close their eyes, blink and basically control the muscles on the face. It is also the nerve that controls salivary and tear glands and muscle, controlling a bone in the ear called the stapes (the smallest bone in the human body). It is also the nerve responsible for transmitting taste sensations.
The nerve is protected by a bony canal allowing it to connect to the muscles on either side of the face. BP is the temporary paralysis that occurs when this nerve is subjected to some kind of trauma or damage. The cause can be an infective, compressive, metabolic, traumatic or an inflammatory problem to the nerve.
Incidences of Bell’s Palsy
According to Medscape, “most population studies generally show an annual incidence of 15-30 cases per 100,000 population. Bell palsy is thought to account for approximately 60-75% of cases of acute unilateral facial paralysis, with the right side affected 63% of the time. It can also be recurrent, with a reported recurrence range of 4-14%”. The condition affects the sexes in equal measure and is likely to appear in the mid-30s going up.
Causes of Bell’s Palsy
Some hypotheses have been forwarded in attempts to explain the workings of the condition. One of the theories states that the condition is a severe demyelinating disease that shows some connections to Guillain-Barre syndrome in terms of pathogenic mechanisms (Greco A et al. 2012).
The 7th cranial nerve is entrapped in the labyrinthine section of the bony canal, which results in compression and ischemia. The condition causes a progressive inflammatory reaction around the nerve fibre. Viruses such as hepatitis B, HIV, and Epstein-Barr can initiate the inflammation (Yanagihara, 2000).
Bell’s Palsy causes partial facial paralysis since it affects one of the facial nerves, cutting off messages to the face from the brain (Adour KK et al.1978). Even so, there are cases where the condition has attacked both nerves of the face.
Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy
The condition robs patients of their ability to control facial movements on one side of the face or, in rare cases, both sides. Patients usually have trouble closing their eyes, have asymmetric facial expressions and dribble saliva from the affected side of the mouth. In some cases, it may also cause loss of taste sensation and noise intolerance (Singhi P and Jain V, 2003). Once they show up, the symptoms progress aggressively during the first 48 hours.
- Drooping corner of the mouth and
- Dry eye or mouth
- Excessive tearing
- Loss of sense of taste
Bell’s Palsy was named after the surgeon who discovered its interconnectedness to the 7th cranial nerve, Sir Charles Bell. The disorder does not relate with stroke in any way.
Western treatments for Bell’s Palsy
Treatment of the condition mainly aims at investigating the patient’s spontaneous recovery after treatment. The eyes are treated first so as to mitigate chances of ocular-related effects. In many studies, steroids have been proposed as the main form of treatment. Such like medicines include prednisone. According to Brown JS (1982), such treatment is even more effective when initiated immediately after paralysis starts preferably within 24 hours (Shafshak TS, 1994). Steroid use for treatment of the condition is common.
Clinical research showing the efficacy of Acupuncture as Treatment for Bell’s Palsy
A study conducted by Hou YL et al. used acupuncture treatment for participants suffering with Bell’s Palsy. The 97 participants were divided into 2 groups at random. One group would use acupuncture and the other conventional medicine. At the end of the one-week study, the results were in and they showed how well acupuncture functioned. The first group that used Western medical treatments showed a 45.20% cured rate, which was much lower than the 81.8% cured rate for the group put under acupuncture treatment.
Qui HX et al. (2006) also carried out a study in a bid to show how acupuncture works to treat BP. The study used a group of 100 test subjects randomly divided into two groups. The study, which applied needle acupuncture and conventional medicine, showed that the acupuncture group had a cured rate of 76% against the cured rate of conventional medicine, which was 55.6%.
Li Y et al. also conducted a research study involving 480 patients. The study would apply moxibustion and acupuncture. Using the FDI score and the House-Brakcman scale, the researchers showed that acupuncture could be used to treat Bell’s Palsy effectively.
There is an abundance of studies clearly showing the positive difference when acupuncture is applied and analyzed against western medical practices. Acupuncture therapy is one of the best non-invasive forms of treatment you could go for if you are thinking of alternatives to western medicine. We at Palm Beach Gardens Acupuncture have licensed, experienced acupuncture specialists who understand acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine and can help you heal quickly. Reach out to us today and receive a free consultation.
- Greco A, Gallo A, Fusconi M, et al. Bell’s palsy and autoimmunity. Autoimmune Rev. 2012;12:323–28.
- Qiu XH, Xie XK, Xie K. Point-through-point acupuncture for in treating peripheral facial issues paralysis.2006
- Hou YL, Li ZC, Ouyang Q, Li X, Li H, Zhao M. Observation on therapeutic use of acupuncture and He-Ne laser radiation on facial paralysis.2008